Interview With Actor Jay Brazeau, “Garage Sale Mystery”

By Ruth on August 6, 2017 in Interview, movie, television

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with one of the most affable people in the entertainment business today, Jay Brazeau. He is one who is the absolute personification of kindness, joy, and love. His first thought is always of others with little thought to himself, and every time I chat with him, I come away feeling truly enlivened and special. Because Jay will be featured as Dr. Tramell in the upcoming Garage Sale Mystery films that air this month (first one is tonight August 6th), it was the perfect opportunity to talk with one of the most genuine, fun-loving people on earth!

RH:  Jay, it’s so nice to get to chat with you again on this bright sunny day.

JB:  It’s lovely chatting with you too, Ruth. And it’s sunny here today too, which is nice for a change.

So have you been keeping busy this year?

Well, oddly enough for me, it’s slowed down a bit for me this year. It’s probably the slowest I’ve ever had. And not just for me, but it’s been slow for people in my age category. It just falls that way sometimes. But that’s just the business, and you can’t get worried about it.

But I’ve been really busy with normal life stuff ’cause we sold the house and got into a condo. It seemed like everybody else was settling in Vancouver, and we figured it was time to move and start getting rid of stuff.  As you get older, you don’t want to have to give that burden to somebody else.

But as far as Garage Sale Mystery goes, things have been great. It seems like it’s become a very popular series.

I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I’ve heard that Garage Sale Mystery is their most popular mystery series. They’re actually doing four of them this month–one every Sunday night in August. So do you know if you are in every one of the movies this month?

Yes, I’ve been in all of them. I only missed out on once because I somehow didn’t know about it ahead of time, and I was in Australia. I don’t think I even knew I missed one until I came back and found out about it later.

Yes, I remember that. Well, you were very much missed in that one. I mean nothing against the actor they got to play the coroner in your place as I realize it was a sort of fill-in part, but it wasn’t quite the same. In fact, I think they tried to make your presence missed. Lori’s {Loughlin} character, Jen, definitely missed you. They filled in with somebody who was just your normal coroner who is somewhat boring and just business only. You knew right away that there wasn’t going to be any fun with this guy. So when you came back in the next one, it was like, “Oh good, he’s back.” I’m so glad you’re in all four of them. In fact, it was funny, I told one of my friends that I was going to be interviewing you, and she thought you were just joining the series. I corrected her by saying that you had been a part of the series almost from the beginning. But they have been doing little featurettes on the main cast and recurring characters, and they have your character telling a joke or something like that.

A bad joke, I’m sure.

Oh, definitely. But I think some people don’t realize how long you’ve been with the cast.

Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. I’m like the uncle that comes and visits once a year. {laughs} It’s been great. I’ve always enjoyed going back there because they’re  a good group of people who put those
shows on and it’s always a lot of fun.

Well, I’m glad you’re in the films because with these mystery films, we’re often on the edge of our seats, trying to figure everything out. Then we saw Dr. Tramell, and we know that light moments are coming when we can just relax and know he’s gonna tell a bad joke.

Yes, he has become a familiar character in the films. In these kinds of stories, exposition is always the hardest thing.  And I’m only happy to help them tell their story and provide a few fun moments along the way. It’s always hard to be the lead actor and get everything to come across well. Lori and the other cast members do really well. But when there’s six or nine months in between filming these, it can be hard to keep the continuity. And with Dr. Tramell, I’m so glad that I can slip in that bit of humor into those very tense and not-so-nice moments.

When Dr. Tramell was first introduced, I think he was pretty suspicious of Jen. He was wondering who this person was who was coming to see him. But now, I think he enjoys the exchanges they have. They have a relationship that is maturing. They trust each other more. And she knows she’s always going to hear a few of his bad jokes which tends to break up the tension.

It seems that you and Lori really enjoy each other’s company. She seems to relate to you really well, and I think there is that level of comfort between you two because you’ve done it so much.  

Oh yeah, she’s great to work with. She’s so pleasant to work with. And chalk one up for her. She’s the hardest working woman in show business. With her kids and everything else she does, oh my gosh, I don’t know how she does it. She’s doing a wonderful job.

But I guess you get to the point when you’re in a series like this that you just get to know everything so well.  She’s able to trust everyone she works with, and she knows what to expect. It’s not like we’re the Walking Dead or something like that where you don’t know where things are headed or what’s gonna happen next. Hallmark really is a more like a well-oiled machine. It’s just like, “Let’s get together and do another Garage Sale Mystery film.”  It’s nothing really too hard about doing it.
It’s just about trying to do the best job you can with the role you are given. Everybody has their own impact no matter what. You can’t expect to always get the super big roles every single time. But when you do get a role, even if there’s something you don’t particularly like about the production or whatever, you still do your best to give the audience your best efforts because it’s important to not diss the thing. My role is to support people like Lori. I’m a part of something bigger, and I am there to support the entire production, no matter how big or small my role is.

I remember when I first started out, and I would count the lines and want to be in as many scenes as possible. That kind of thing was important when I was younger. But as you get older, it really becomes a pleasure to just go play your role in the morning and not to worry about it. And as you get older, of course, other things do become more important–our children, for example. We begin to understand that we are not defined by what we do. You’re defined by who you are. Acting is what I do. That’s what I do for a living. I really love it and think it’s great, but it’s not who I am. But when I was younger, acting was everything. The most important thing was getting out there and doing your thing and hoping that everyone sees how great you were at what you do. And that’s when you have to watch out because you don’t want to end up on the dark side. It’s so easy to do that in this particular business. You have to really enjoy what you do, but you have to enjoy life at the same time. And you have to be proud of stuff, be proud of yourself. I’m as proud of Garage Sale Mystery as anything else I’ve ever done. Even getting awards and other stuff I’ve done.

If you’re an actor, people begin to respect your work. And you really have to keep that up. It’s really nice when you get a plumber or someone like that, and he’s a really nice guy. He shows up on time and gets the work done and he’s a great talker. I look at people like that and think, “That’s great. He enjoys life, and that’s what it’s all about.” It’s about sharing an experience. No matter your line of work, you should be able to enjoy life and do a good job in your line of work.

What you were saying about going to the dark side, it reminds me of something I appreciate about you, Jay. Sometimes I’ll go to someone’s social media account, whether they’re actors or not, and there’s nothing but negativity. They’re complaining about something again or talking about how nothing is going well in their lives. But with you, I go to your Facebook page, and it’s not covered in negativity. You share all sorts of fun stories, sometimes funny stories. And I really like that.

I think social media should be about sharing life and creating discussion. I think Facebook should be used in a positive light.  It’s about sharing life. I’m sure you see a lot of people posting, and it’s like pulling teeth to read their posts. You don’t want to be there.

I remember there was a young kid who wanted my advice, and I pulled him aside and said, “This is great. You’re in this series here. Thirty years from tonight you’re going to look back on this and realize it was the best time you’ve ever had. Don’t ruin this time now for yourself. It’s great to be able to have this opportunity right now. It beats some other jobs you could be working. This is the neatest job in the world, and it beats a lot of the other stuff you could be doing.”

I think it’s just too easy to fall into that negative mindset of complaining about the world being such a dark place.

It becomes hard, I think. All too often, the important thing becomes all about the business credit and the money you’re making. But all that stuff is not nearly as important as you think it is after a while. I try to do as much independent work as I can. It’s those indie films that make me feel like we’re going back in time to when you just wanted to do something for the sake of doing it. You get together with your friends or put on a play because you thought it was important. You weren’t getting swamped by all this other stuff.

Recently I was reading about the stuntman who was killed on the Walking Dead–so very tragic. And then the man who did the voice of Kermit and how they just let him go. I remember I did one of those Muppet Movies–I think it was a Christmas one. But it was just so wonderful to work with those guys because they were just a bunch of old hippies who just fell into the job.

I remember one of the most lovely experiences I ever had was singing in their video. I was kind of reading through it and these guys were all there with their puppets. They were reading through as their characters. It was just like being on stage with Laurence Olivier in a different sort of way. It reminded me of the people I grew up with.

One of the fans asked, “How much are you like your character Dr. Tramell?”

It’s interesting. I think you always start with yourself. I mean, I’m not like Daniel Day Lewis when it comes to acting. I could never see myself being a coroner and doing what Dr. Tramell does. But when playing any character, you have to basically start with yourself. In this particular situation, I think there is humor. I think there’s humor in everything. In the most serious of movies, there’s always humor.

I’m actually writing now, and it is something serious, and I hope to make it a series. It’s about abuse and stuff like that, but in order to make it work, you have to add humor because even in the most craziest of serious situations, there is humor. There is humor in life, and I always have tried to find that aspect of any character. And in the case of Tramell, I had to find humor.

It has a made a big difference with Tramell. When I started to add in the humor, it made a big difference for me and for Lori too. It showed her in a comedic sense. Take my doctor for example. He’s from South Africa, and whenever I go to see him, he’ll come in and look at me and say, “Are you still alive? I thought you would have been dead long ago.”  {laughs} And that’s what makes it great. It becomes an enjoyable experience. So I think Tramell needs to have some humor too.

So with acting, I’ve been very lucky. I never went to any kind of acting school. I just started doing stuff, and people were always looking for a balding, fat guy somewhere. I learned by watching, and I got a chance to work with a lot of great people and watch how they did it. People would pass on their knowledge to me in that respect. One of the first times I remember being one set was in a movie called Brotherly Love. The director told me to do a banana.  I had no idea what he was talking about. Was he talking about craft service? Did he want me to get him a banana? Thankfully, the camera guy took me aside and showed me what a banana was. It was basically in the shot the way the thing was framed. I had to do the curvature of a banana to make the shot work rather than go straight into something. Through the kindness of strangers, I was able to learn. There’s always good people that have helped me out. Thank God for them. I always try to pass that stuff on because the pay-it-forward thing is so important, especially as you get older.

Jay Brazeau (Tramell)

So those of us who have the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel, we will get to see you every Sunday in August. 

I think people are really enjoying the reliability of these films. It’s reminiscent of Murder She Wrote and other shows like that. It’s a pleasure to know that on a certain night, a great mystery will be on. It’s getting back to the old-time TV when you knew that on a certain night, you always have your show. You and your family can sit down and watch it together and feel good about what you’re watching. It makes you feel like home.

I love the fact that it’s family friendly. My daughter loves the Garage Sale Mystery films and it is one of the few where she will come out of her bedroom, leave her computer, and watch with the family. And my parents love them too. 

That’s great that you and your family watch these movies together. I remember when my kids wanted to watch the new Casper movie. We were going to sit and watch it. I had picked up everything, and my wife and I were getting ready to sit down with them, but I had my kids start it without us. They started it, but then I heard, “Dad!”  I came to them and they were sitting there covering their eyes and they were saying, “I don’t think this is Casper.” I looked at the TV, and it was the horror movie Caligula. So we turned it off and they acted like they hadn’t seen anything. I love that they were so well-trained that once they saw it and knew they weren’t supposed to watch, they let me know. I’m sure the other guy who was supposed to get this one was probably not too happy about watching Casper. {laughs} Thankfully, our family will still sit down every once in a while and watch a film together. It doesn’t happen often because they’re busy with their own lives, but when it happens, it’s just so wonderful.

Recently we went down to Seattle, and they have this Cinerama there, and we went to see Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen. Oh, I forgot what that was like. The scope of something so huge–that’s what we’re sort of missing now. All this other stuff like the Avengers is all right, but we’re missing the big films like that. You really felt like you went there to this place. It was incredible.

Every once in a while, they have these screenings–I think they’re starting to do stuff like Jaws on the big screen. There is a place called Vancity where there’s lots of crazy films you can watch, and they’ll pick a celebrity–I don’t know how I’m a celebrity–but they’ll pick a person and ask them to present one of their favorite movies. One of my favorite movies is The Party. Have you ever seen that?

No, I have not seen that movie.

It’s a very funny movie, and I hadn’t seen it for a long time. So I was able to present it with the audience. In the audience were people of all ages, and they got to see it on the big screen. It was great to hear these laughs again and sit in the movie theater again. It was gorgeous.

Wow, that must have been amazing. I think that’s something that we do miss in today’s society. Nothing against the big blockbuster movies. My daughter and  I see them too. But what’s missing is the stories. There used to be movies that had these very involved stories, and now we really just go for the special effects. It’s no longer about the story in most cases. {pause} So in addition to Garage Sale Mystery all this month, is there anything else upcoming that you can mention?

Well, not really. As I said, my dance card has been free. I go to a lot of auditions, but nothing seems to click. I’m not really worried about it as some people are. I know something is bound to come up. I have written a play, and I’ve had a reading of it, and it went very well.  I am trying to find other ways to not just sit and wait for the phone to ring. I try to keep busy with theater or cartoons or writing or directing.  You’ve just got to keep doing that, finding those different things to keep yourself occupied.

I think we all look forward to the time when Hallmark puts you back in a Christmas movie.  It’s been awhile since you did one for them. Your last Christmas movie with them was Once Upon a Holiday

Yes, and that one seemed to do pretty well. That was lots of fun. In fact, I caught a glimpse of I Do, I Do, I Do the other day. I love how Hallmark keeps replaying these films. Hallmark is doing great stuff and they’re filling that gap which is great. They’re really keeping the Vancouver actors busy and employed. And even though it’s summer, it’s Christmastime! The actors wear these big parkas with the insides of them taken out and try to make it look like it’s cold.

One other thing I was gonna ask is what would be your advice to young people who are considering a career in show business?

It’s a hard thing, right? And it depends on you. There are two things. Do you want to be a good actor, or do you want to be a movie star? Those are two separate things altogether. Obviously, if you want to be a movie star, go to Hollywood. That seems to be the place you go if that’s what you want to do.

If you want to be an actor, it’s just really practicing your craft. Wherever you are. It’s hard to tell people exactly how to get involved because if it’s something you really want to do and there’s nothing else you would rather do, you will find a way to do it. When I started, everything I learned, I learned from going to the movies and going to plays later on. I learned a lot from watching. Being an extra. One of the best places to learn is to be a stand-in because sometimes you’re doing the actual scenes that the actors are doing. The leads aren’t there, and the director might want to see how things are. You’re working with the director, and you’re seeing the shots. You’re learning a lot about film. Doing extra work sometimes means sitting around a lot, but at least it’s a great job to do. It’s interesting to watch through the background people who are just so professional. They’ve done it for such a long time, and they’re really good at it.

If you want a really good school, I always say a great path is to start in theater. It gives you this sense of knowing the parameters of what acting is all about, and if you’re not sure how to do it, what they do is they take you and they guide you to give you the sense of what a character needs, what an actor needs and they give you these things to help you till you go out into the real world. Usually, it’s easier to go from theater to film. You work on voice and all these other things, so I try to tell people who are interested that that’s the place to be. You’re also getting used to developing characters every evening on stage in front of an audience. Acting in film is exactly the same thing, but at the same time, it’s totally different. The whole thing about acting in films is just not to act. It’s just being yourself. In my younger days, when I was acting in films, I tried to do what I call pirate acting. I thought I had to be characterized, to come on with a limp or something funny like that. I thought I had the need for the camera to pick it up. The same need I had to make sure that my voice was heard in the back rows so that everyone was getting the same performance. But then I realized that I don’t need to be the character because I am a character when I walk through the door. I don’t have to do anything else. I just really have to listen.

I think the most important thing to remember is that acting is reacting. It’s acting honestly. You know, sometimes you see people walk in right in the middle of a performance. I never could do that. It’s just not fair to somebody. It’s not fair to take up somebody’s time. They are sitting there, and they take the time to watch your work so you can take them somewhere. You’re not fulfilling your job if you’re not there and being that person. Your job is to take them away on this journey of an hour or longer. One of the greatest things people can say to me is that they love a character I’ve portrayed. It’s not about loving me; it’s about loving the character, loving the experience. I’ve been very fortunate to have those experiences, and those are the ones that I really hold closely to my heart.

Well, I would say, Jay, that is some excellent advice. I’ve heard similar things, but I think you put it very well. I especially like what you had to say about the difference between an actor and a movie star. I think there is sometimes some confusion between the two.

Well, there is. The last thing I want to have happen is to see someone looking through my trash when I get home at night. I’ve seen that happen for some people, and people have no idea what a star is. I worked with Timothy Busfield who has been in different shows including Thirtysomething. We were shooting a Stephen King show called Trucks in the middle of Winnipeg in the quarry on the hottest day of the year. It was hard work. We went out afterwards for dinner. I saw someone I hadn’t seen in a while, and I excused myself to go over to this person. So I sat with this other person for about ten minutes. Timothy came over and sat down and talked with us like normal people for about a half an hour, and I could see the moment he came over the lady I was talking to–her eyes lit up. She knew who he was. He was able to just come over and be Timothy Busfield, the person. He was able to have an honest conversation and talk about the things in his life. He was able to sit there and just have a normal chat, and to me, that’s what a star is. That’s what it’s all about. When a person goes beyond what they are, but can still talk to the average person and not worry about other things. It’s just people talking. He did that, and I thought it was really nice of him to do that. I’ve never really had any problems with actors who come up to me and chat. Usually, people are really nice.

Jay, you are just a wealth of knowledge, and I love all your stories. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

My pleasure, Ruth. I look forward to sharing many more experiences and chats with you in the future.

While Jay is not old enough to be my grandfather, his outlook and perspective are quite reminiscent of the happy days I spent at my grandfather’s feet listening to tales of days gone by. No one can tell a story quite like Jay can, and the fact of the matter is, he is willing to listen to your yarns as well. In any conversation or interaction, it is never about himself; he always values the other people involved much higher than himself. He is the type who would render aid to anyone in need, no matter the circumstances. And in the acting world, his wealth of knowledge is practically legendary. I know for a fact that he has encouraged and given advice to countless youngsters (and oldsters too), and I don’t think I’ve ever known Jay not to be positive. It seems that even when disappointments come his way, he is always able to weather the storms and look to the next sunny spot on the horizon. 

As far as Garage Sale Mystery goes, I mean every word when I say that he adds so much color and humor to each film, even if he only appears for a few brief moments. In many ways, Dr. Tramell has become an ally to Jen, and I can only hope Hallmark will continue to include him in each of these films. Of course, I would love to see them feature him in another holiday-themed movie sometime down the line because the positive energy that Jay exudes in every project is unequivocally infectious. 

So be sure to check out the links below–it is possible you have seen Jay in a wide variety of things over the years without even realizing it. I also invite you to watch each Garage Sale Mystery film this month airing each Sunday (beginning tonight, August 6th) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Keep a sharp eye out for Dr. Tramell as depicted by the gregarious and winsome Jay and know that this is one actor who is deserving of every good and loving thought you can send his way. I hope with all of my heart that we will be enjoying his antics both on and off the screen for many years to come. I know Canada likes to claim him as a “national treasure,” but he’s every bit as vital to those of us in the States. Perhaps the U.S. can name him an honorary national treasure…..




About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher

1 Comment

  1. Jay Brazeau August 6, 2017 Reply

    You have done it again. You have taken all my mouth flappings and meandering show biz tales and like “Rumpelstiltskin” spinned them into “gold”. You are journalist “extraordinaire”. Thank you so much for taking time with me, giving me the chance through our conversations, to reach out to all the lovely people who watch and like the films we are making for them. Your positive energy is such a gift to us. These days there seems to be less and less people out there who have this positive gift of yours. On behalf of all the actors in GARAGE SALE MYSTERY thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You make our work make it so much easier to do. I so look forward to reading all your interviews and talking with you again. Bless your beautiful heart. Your amigo Jay Brazeau

Add comment

Leave a Reply

Please know that comment moderation is in effect on this site. Comments may not appear immediately. Also, please note that any negative attacks on people, networks, or other comments that are deemed "inappropriate" or "overtly negative" may be removed and/or edited by the administrator.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge